VANCOUVER, Canada — When a friend in London called my attention to Inventory Magazine earlier this summer, I was intrigued to learn that the impeccably edited menswear title is based out of Vancouver, a city known for beautiful vistas and excellent food, but not usually for understated style.
"Inventory began as an outlet for us to write about products and things we were interested in personally," explains editor-in-chief and creative director Ryan Willms. Together with a small team including fashion director Simon Roe and managing producer Owen Parrott, Willms carefully curates international menswear brands with quiet, exacting discipline. "A lot of the brands, people and products we were interested in were not getting much coverage at the time so we decided to interview and photograph the stories we wanted to read ourselves," he adds.
Usually when I hear this from emerging designers or young magazine editors, I take it as a sign that they haven't done any market research. When Willms says it, I really believe him.
Interestingly, Willms first gained credibility as online editor of the much lauded h(y)r collective, and grew Inventory from there to include a printed magazine, an e-commerce store and most recently, a studio-cum-shop in the heart of Vancouver's Gastown district.
"We decided to start printing the magazine because the photography and interviews we were getting were so good and in-depth, that we felt they deserved to be printed," he says. "There wasn't another magazine focused on this area of menswear. We felt confident that we would be able to find people to invest in a printed magazine that covered the same kinds of stories."
Willms' hypothesis is being proven correct. Inventory is selling briskly, having successfully tapped into a growing interest in staple menswear brands amongst industry tastemakers.
Margaret Howell — a designer renowned for a pared-down aesthetic, but not her public persona — is the unconventional cover star of the magazine's second issue, which saw its print run increased by sixty percent to 8,000 copies.
Colette, Dover Street Market and Beams — who apparently share Willms' belief in appreciating "products and clothing for more than just their appearance" — are amongst the more than 75 international retailers and boutiques who carry the magazine. And many more requests to stock Inventory are coming from other stores around the world. All of this has been achieved with no outside help. The magazine's entire distribution is handled internally.
The recently-opened Inventory Stockroom carries the same products that are featured in the pages of the magazine, artfully merchandised with sparse urban sophistication. Standouts included a yellow Rangoon jacket by Nigel Cabourn, an indigo tote bag by The Real McCoys, and a military insipired Ashfield Jacket from Engineered Garments, originally made as an exclusive collaboration with Beams Plus in Japan.
"We always wanted to have our own store," says Willms. "It started online because that was the best, most cost efficient way to sell products in small quantities and work our way into retail. In the beginning we were the first blog or web-magazine to actually collaborate with brands to make real products — now it's a lot more common. But because our main focus and business is the magazine, we don't have to compromise with the products in our shop. Every brand and every piece is something we like, would wear ourselves and know all about, which I feel is pretty rare today."
In the sea of corporate chain stores with poor quality, 'me too' merchandise which dominate Vancouver's retail scene, Inventory Stockroom is a breath of fresh air. The magazine and store are a kind-of editorial and retail mirror image, making no bones about their commercial intentions. It seems completely natural that Inventory would sell the products it editorialises. This is in sharp contrast to many mainstream magazines who are required to feature the products of advertisers, but don't own up to it.
For those who want to get a taste of what Inventory has to offer, but aren't able to make it to Vancouver, Willms and his team are setting up shop for one month only at Partners & Spade in New York this October.
"The [Partners & Spade] studio/shop is one of the best spaces and more interesting retail set-ups in New York, and it seemed like an unexpected, yet creative partnership for us," he says. The pop-up store will feature product collaborations with Duluth Pack and Scottish knitter Inverallan and coincide with the launch of the 3rd issue of the magazine.
Imran Amed, Founder and Editor of The Business of Fashion, is in Vancouver and is participating in a Q&A session on fashion and the digital revolution on 30 August at the Opus Hotel. For further information and tickets, contact Searching for Style.